The Dillinger Escape Plan have got me feeling some type of way the past few months. I don’t think I ever realized how much I absolutely love this group until I heard this album knowing that it’s definitely going to be their last. It’s been surprisingly emotional, and I’m pissed that I’m probably not going to get the chance to see them live before they finish up their final tour. It wouldn’t surprise me if during the final performance of their usual show-closer “43% Burnt”, the audience doesn’t literally bring the house down and destroy the venue as THAT riff (you know the one I’m talking about) thunders out for the last time. Would be quite fitting.
Dissociation, in a nutshell, represents the band at their most unhinged, and at the same time, their most serene and beautiful. A sense of urgency permeates this record, and it’s totally justified given the circumstances. This is possibly the most important album of their career. If they bungle this, it would really cast a shadow on the rest of their catalogue (imagine if Metallica broke up after St. Anger, for example). As a band, your final album is sort of like the final words someone gets to say before they take a vow of silence. You better make them worth it. Thankfully, if the preceding four records with Greg Puciato were filling the bases, this is their grand slam. It’s all been building to this, and I can’t imagine a better way to go out really. But for me to dwell on the end of the band this whole time would be massively unfair to the opus they’ve unleashed upon us with Dissociation, a record that is as epic as it is schizophrenic.
While always a group known to go off in weird directions, Dillinger have wrought probably their most experimental work yet with this one. In addition to the rabid audio-beating that one can expect from a TDEP record, you can hear the band defiantly tangent off into jazz fusion, ambient music, cabaret-esque crooner ballads, and glitchy IDM. The band’s (in)famous approach to timekeeping is akin to a sugared up elementary school kid who can’t sit still. The band is often given this label of “mathcore” a word that I personally hate because it implies that the only thing they care about is confusing people with their whacky time signatures and tempo changes. Most bands that have a strong emphasis on technicality end up sounding very clinical in their approach, but with Converge guitar hero/production wizard Kurt Ballou helming the production, the band wisely avoids the modern metal production job that I hate oh-so-much. Ballou also was responsible for another one of my favorite sounding metal records earlier this year with Nails’ You Will Never Be One Of Us, a production job that so masterfully walked the tightrope of horrible grimey noise and clear punchy ear candy.
Speaking of ear candy, one of the most impressive aspects of Dissociation is how Puciato is able to rapidly adapt himself to fit these off-kilter changes in mood and making it seem effortless to boot. This is really his record. Not only is he capable of some of the most off-putting banshee screeches that put most metal screamers to shame (his vocals during the speed up on “Limerent Death” are absolutely terrifying), but he simultaneously possesses one of the smoothest voices in rock music. Dude could be an R&B singer and no one would cry foul.
Dillinger put so much energy into what they do that it never sounds like they’re showing off, but are just possessed with the urge to make you uncomfortable. Billy Rymer is the engine at the core of all this, and how he and bassist Liam Wilson manage to keep everything together is totally beyond me. Never mind the stamina and technical chops it takes to play any of these songs, just being able to mentally keep track of where you’re at at any particular point in a song must point to some sort of higher level of consciousness. Anybody who can actually hold their own in this band is really a musician to be reckoned with. A lot of people have spent time in the band, but I feel like this current lineup is the only one that would be capable of making a record this diverse. The band has such a keen sense of dynamics that even when the structure seems somewhat random, there’s a flow to every track that subconsciously makes sense if you take the time to listen carefully, and even sixteen years since the release of their first album, they still find new ways to play around with their complex sound. One of my favorites is this nutty accelerando freakout on that takes up most of the second half of “Limerent Death”, which sees the band gradually raising the tempo from a relatively sparse, low tempo 4/4 march to an almost incomprehensible wall of noise and blast beats. Greg Puciato’s vocals follow suit, going from a sort of sickening but understandable groan to a high pitched shriek in which the phrase he was repeating becomes completely unintelligible. It’s one of the most awesome climaxes to a song I’ve ever heard, and to me, the first half of the song serves solely as a setup for this section.
But I think the moment that sums up the entire record the most poignantly happens around halfway through the second to last track, “Nothing to Forget”, a track that starts off as aggressive as any of the other songs on the album. But then the whole thing stops and this gorgeous string quartet seeps into the mix with Puciato’s pretty falsetto peppered in. It’s a stunningly beautiful little piece in time made all the more delicate and stately by all the chaos whirling around it. It’s honestly a contender for my favorite musical moment of 2016, along with the haunting opening notes of David Bowie’s “Blackstar” and the epic final chorus of “Misery” by the band that I talk about way too much, Creeper.
It’s strange how this batshit crazy technical hardcore jazz punk band has provoked such an emotional response in me, but when I think about the mantric final words of the album, “finding a way to die alone”, in context of the way this band that’s really important to me are very deliberately and gracefully bowing out, it’s hard for me not to get a bit choked up. If I had a glass with me right now to raise to The Dillinger Escape Plan, I would proudly do so now. Ya done good, boys.
-Nothing to Forget
-Low Feels Blvd